After a relatively uneventful offseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the club has made its plans to rely on contributions from its farm system this season clear. Los Angeles has managed to re-sign just one of its free agents this offseason, leaving plenty of vacancies on a team that managed to win a franchise-record 111 games in 2022.
Baseball America recently released its annual Top 100 Prospects list, ranking C Diego Cartaya (18), RHP Bobby Miller (21), 3B Miguel Vargas (30), 2B Michael Busch (54), RHP Ryan Pepiot (55), and RHP Gavin Stone (56) among the league’s most coveted young talents. These players lead a Dodgers minor league system that 21% of executives polled in MLB Pipeline’s Executives Prospect Poll believe to be the best farm system in baseball.
Here’s a deeper look at a few prospects who could secure a spot on the Major League roster and make their presence felt in 2023.
Diego Cartaya, C (LAD Prospect No. 1)
The Dodgers’ top prospect has made himself a fan favorite since signing with Los Angeles during the 2018 international signing period, appearing at Dodgers FanFest this offseason after his addition to the 40-man roster in November.
The 21-year-old Venezuelan catcher is often compared to Kansas City Royals star Salvador Perez due to their similar profile. However, scouts at MLB Pipeline note that Cartaya is a more advanced hitter than Perez was at his age. Between Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Advanced-A Great Lakes in 2022, Cartaya mashed 22 home runs, slashing .254/.389/.503 in 445 plate appearances.
Although Cartaya is steadily improving as a game-caller behind the plate, Will Smith has the catcher role in Los Angeles locked up and does not reach free agency until 2026, meaning any potential part for Cartaya in 2023 would be as a backup or as the team’s designated hitter.
Bobby Miller, RHP (LAD Prospect No. 2)
In Kiley McDaniel’s top 100 prospects list for ESPN released this month, McDaniel compared Bobby Miller’s ceiling to future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer. The 23-year-old flamethrower has significantly improved on the walk rate he had posted in college at Louisville, which bodes well for Miller’s development as he still managed to fan 11.8 batters per nine innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season.
Although Miller can consistently touch triple digits with his fastball, some are more impressed with his secondary pitches. Miller possesses three plus secondaries: a changeup, curveball, and slider that can overpower hitters and generate eye-opening whiff rates.
While the future is bright for Miller’s improving skillset, a possible MLB debut in 2023 will likely have to wait until September when rosters expand. Miller is not on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster so an injury to a member of the current staff would be his best chance at carving out a role on the team this season.
Miguel Vargas, 3B (LAD Prospect No. 3)
Ranked as the fifth-best third base prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, Miguel Vargas has shown tremendous growth in his game power over the past two seasons. After hitting just two home runs as a 19-year-old at High-A Rancho Cucamonga, Vargas has applied his elite bat-to-ball skills and improved in lifting the ball with his swing, launching 23 home runs between High-A and Double-A in 2021.
Vargas supplies the Dodgers with defensive versatility, logging innings at first base, second base, third base, and left field a season ago. In his brief Major League stint last season, Vargas showed flashes of what he is capable of, bouncing a ground-rule double over the wall in Triples Alley against the San Francisco Giants for his first big league hit.
When asked at FanFest about what Vargas’ role with the Dodgers might look like this season, manager Dave Roberts told fans to expect “a lot of Miguel Vargas from the outset,” mentioning a move to second base for Vargas that would allow Gavin Lux to fall into his traditional role at shortstop.
Gavin Stone, RHP (LAD Prospect No. 7)
Another pitcher on the list of development successes for the Dodgers, Gavin Stone’s arsenal has dramatically improved since being drafted out of the University of Central Arkansas in 2020. In six starts at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, Stone posted a strong 1.16 ERA with 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings, capping off his multi-level 2022 campaign with Dodgers Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors.
According to MLB Pipeline, Stone upped his average fastball velocity to 94 MPH in 2021 and has since improved his changeup, a pitch that generated plenty of groundballs and whiffs on 63% of swings last season. Although he is seen as a late bloomer, Stone has a pair of plus pitches that should allow him to thrive as either a starter or a reliever.
Similar to Bobby Miller, Stone debuted at AAA last season and has yet to be added to the team’s 40-man roster. However, some scouts believe Stone to have the more polished, major-league-ready skillset so his chances at making an appearance in 2023 are the same, if not better than Miller’s.
James Outman, OF (LAD Prospect No. 13)
Ranking as L.A.’s third-highest outfield prospect, James Outman’s MLB debut last season went about as perfectly as it could have as the 25-year-old hammered a German Marquez sinker over the wall in right-center field in his first at-bat. Although his big league time was short-lived, playing in just 4 games, Outman spent a significant amount of 2023 punishing pitchers at Triple-A Oklahoma City, turning in a 1.018 OPS in 252 plate appearances. Outman even recorded two cycles over a four-game span in August, the first of which was OKC’s first cycle since 2011.
Outman’s role with Los Angeles will likely involve filling the hole left in the outfield by the departure of former MVP Cody Bellinger. Last season, Bellinger logged 1,223 innings in center field, the position FanGraphs’ RosterResource projects Trayce Thompson to start in during the upcoming year. However, MLB Pipeline’s prospect summary describes Outman as “one of the best athletes in the system,” referencing his defensive abilities at all three outfield positions, which bodes well for his chances to make starts alongside Mookie Betts and Trayce Thompson in the Dodgers’ outfield in 2023.
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